A consistent performer in the domestic circuit, a duck on One-Day International debut and age over 27, Shikhar Dhawan was on his way to becoming a domestic veteran. With Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag going strong as the openers for India, it was looking extremely tough for Dhawan to break into the team. Almost everybody had written him off. But as they say, fortune favours the brave, and fortune did not make an exception with Dhawan either as he was rewarded for his brilliant 2012-13 season in the Ranji Trophy with a call from the Indian team during the four-match Test series against Australia in 2013.
His brilliant form in the domestic tournament, in which he scored 461 runs including two centuries at an average of 51.22, coincided with the poor form of Indian openers. It gave him a chance to don the Indian whites as he was selected as the third-choice opener in the team.
India had registered comprehensive victories in the first two Tests against Michael Clarke’s team but their openers’ dismal show was an area of concern. Murali Vijay and Virender Sehwag had scored 11, 16 and 17 in three innings and Sehwag was finally dropped from the team for the third Test in Mohali, giving his Delhi teammate a chance to prove his worth.
India’s hopes of avenging the 4-0 loss in Australia in 2011-12 series took a huge blow when the first day at Mohali was washed out and then the Aussies scored 408 in their first innings. While the score was not a daunting one, considering the fact that the Mohali pitch did not have a tinge of grass on it but with a new opener and a middle-order that had developed a penchant of collapsing every now and then, the 400+ score was always going to be a tough one. But probably, these situations are tailor-made for the champions to announce their arrival on the biggest stage.
Fans had their fair share of reservation when the man with two triple centuries was replaced by a man who had scored only 69 runs in the five ODIs that he had played two years prior to making his Test debut. But when the third day of the Mohali Test ended, not a single fan, mind you, not a single one had any complaints with the team management’s decision to hand Dhawan his maiden Test cap. The southpaw stormed his way into the record books with one of the finest debuts ever seen in the longest format of the game.
Replying to Australia’s 408, India finished the third day on 283 for no loss with Dhawan unbeaten on a majestic 185. His brilliant hand-eye coordination would have made even Virender Sehwag, one of the finest exponents of this batting style, proud. Silky cover-drives, lofting the spinners into the stand, majestic straight-drives, mixing caution with aggression, the fans could not have asked for more.
The southpaw scored the fastest century ever on Test debut, off only 85 balls, and also broke the long-held record of highest score by an Indian debutant held by Gundappa Viswanath (137 vs Australia at Kanpur, 1969). Millions of fans across the nation were glued to their television set when Day 4 started as Dhawan was in line to become the first Indian batsman and only the third overall to hit a double century on his debut. However, he could only score two more runs but there is no denying the fact that he did enough to make his innings a part of the cricketing folklore.